James Rohaley (Class of 2015)

  • photo of James Rohaleysenior major in Marketing
  • minor in American Studies
  • from Chardon, OH
  • started Miami's InFocus photography club that has attracted 30 members
  • member of the Pi Sigma Epsilon sales and marketing fraternity, whose Miami chapter ranks highly in national competitions

Another great experience is related to my American Studies minor. It was a challenge to align it with my classes at the business school, but Peggy Shaffer, the previous director of the AMS program, was really understanding. She helped me join my Marketing major and AMS minor into a continuous integration, which included me taking a couple of classes that I wouldn't have normally been able to fit into my minor.


Why Miami?

"I'd made several lists of pros and cons on various colleges I liked and was really on the edge at first between Miami University and John Carroll University. The decision in choosing Miami really boiled down to my older sister, Alison. She got a great scholarship for running at Ohio University but ended up having to stop because it didn't fit with her objectives anymore. I was going to take up running at John Carroll on an equally generous scholarship, but I was worried that if I stopped running like she did, would I still enjoy the academic experience? This made me realize that I wanted to do something completely different from high school and have a lot of new opportunities. That's why I came to Miami.

"As a freshman, I knew not one person here. No one from my high school even knew where Miami was! Miami can be a bubble, but in a good way. By being away from family and everyone in high school and coming here on your own, you can mold yourself into who you want to be. I came with the idea that I wanted to go to the Farmer School of Business, but I wanted to try a couple of other classes first, so I took architecture and photography. I also joined as many clubs as I could.

"It's funny to think that as a freshman you have this need to find your group or niche right away, especially when you don't know anyone. This is a misunderstanding, because neither I nor many of my friends found ours until we were sophomores. The struggle to fit in is essential, because when you're in that struggle you start to realize what's important to you. I've seen that this is not unusual.

"I took my first American studies (AMS) class with Professor Andrew Busch and knew I wanted to continue with that subject as well as marketing, so I decided to merge both of them together as my minor and major respectively. After that I never really looked back—and I've loved every second of it."

Best Miami Experiences

enlarged photo of James Rohaley and friends"I'm in the Pi Sigma Epsilon business fraternity, and we compete nationally with 170 other chapters for top PR, marketing, sales, market research, and a lot of other awards. We've won 11 of the past 14 years, including last March. I've spent countless hours all last year working on our projects every week. It's been so rewarding to have worked so hard on something and then achieve recognition for it. We're pushing to do it all over again this year.

"It's important to get involved in some of the many different student organizations on campus. As a freshman I was and still am interested in photography. To my surprise, Miami didn't have a photography club, so I brought it up with Associated Student Government and started one! It's called InFocus. We began with 8 members, just a random group, and then grew significantly to over 30 once we got some equipment and put our name out. Our advisors are the university photographers Jeff Sabo and Scott Kissel, who were both interested and supportive from the beginning. It's truly an amazing feeling to know that I started something significant at this university and it will be around long after I graduate.

"Another great experience is related to my American Studies minor. It was a challenge to align it with my classes at the business school, but Peggy Shaffer, the previous director of the AMS program, was really understanding. She helped me join my Marketing major and AMS minor into a continuous integration, which included me taking a couple of classes that I wouldn't have normally been able to fit into my minor. One was an independent study with Professor Busch, and this was the most rewarding academic experience that I've had at Miami. He asked me what I wanted to learn, and I ended up doing a focus on the topics of urbanization and suburbanization. I'd write a paper on a book we read, and then we'd discuss both the paper and book together for hours. He's so polished in his field that for me to be able to sit with him and probe his mind was a really rewarding experience.

"Professor Busch molded me into wanting to have an AMS minor. I'd thought of doing a History minor or something similar, but I ended up loving the deep historical focus in his classes. This was the first time I had experienced that level of thinking at Miami, and it was both rewarding and entertaining to see everyone equally as interested as me in these AMS discussions. These classes are not easy, and the professors will critique every word you write and ask you why you think the way you do, but I've loved every part of it."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"I enjoy having my major at the Farmer School of Business, but I also love the liberal arts education that I've focused on at Miami as well. Some students look at liberal arts and say, 'What is the easiest selection of classes that I can take?' and then don't really get the full experience. I'm here for 4 years, and I want to explore my interests and do something that I wouldn't normally do. I started by taking a couple architecture and AMS classes, and that's what led me to my minor.

"It really works in your favor when you take classes that you're passionate about. If you're just ticking off a checkbox with a class, then you're not really putting all of your effort into it. I've enjoyed the idea of an open discussion in my liberal arts classes that allows me to hear different opinions and broaden my perspectives. I've been able to build knowledge in a collective, interdisciplinary manner from these different perspectives. I can take those skills and transfer them into my business classes and ask, 'What if we went this way? What if we did something different like this?' And it really works in both directions, always leading to a new and different way of thinking.

"Integrating my classes between the business school and the liberal arts has been an incredible experience, and I think other students will feel the same if they did what they were passionate about instead of just taking the easy route for their GPA!"

Advice to Students

enlarged photo of James Rohaley and friends"Overall, the level of thinking at Miami is very free flowing, especially as you take more advanced classes. Now that I'm a senior, I'm just told to run with things. As students we sometimes worry that we're going the wrong direction, but my education has taught me that there is no wrong way—just a thousand different paths to go.

"The value you get from this university is based on the level of effort you put into it. But that level of effort shouldn't stop beyond the classroom. Pick two things that you have a passion for and stick with them. If you're starting to see that one is something that's not really you, cut it off and start something else. If you do only one thing, then you're going to be worried that you'll have nothing left if you drop it. Having at least two things you like will give you a backup and then you can make the decision to stick with whatever you like.

"I pushed myself to try new things, to take risks, and put myself in uncomfortable situations to meet new people. That discomfort will pay dividends later on, I promise you, because you will find your niche. You will find the people who 'get you' in a school of over 15,000 undergraduates, and that will make all the difference."

[October 2014]